Territorial Status and Statehood

In 1849 Minnesota became a territory. The Missouri and White Earth rivers were the western boundary. A land boom grew as towns were platted, railroads chartered, and roads built. Attention turned to education, and the Univ. of Minnesota was established in 1851. The school, with its many associated campuses, has subsequently exerted and continues to exert a great influence on the cultural life of the state. The building (1851–53) of the Soo Ship Canal at Sault Ste. Marie opened a water route for lake shipping eastward.

The Panic of 1857 hit Minnesota particularly hard because of land speculation, but difficult times did not prevent the achievement of statehood in 1858, with St. Paul as the capital and Henry Hastings Sibley as the state’s first governor. The population had swelled from 6,000 in 1850 to more than 150,000 in 1857; by 1870 there were nearly 440,000 people. Chiefly a land of small farmers (mainly of British, German, and Irish extraction), Minnesota supported the Union in the Civil War and supplied large quantities of wheat to the Northern armies.

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